The Tobacconist


Today I went out for a walk to buy cat food and suddenly remembered that I needed paper for my printer. I knew there was a newsagent* on my way, so I thought I’d stop there on my return journey. No point in carrying two reams of 500 pages or 10lbs (4.5 kilos) all the way to the pet shop and back, right?

Unfortunately, the newsagent was closed until 3pm and it was only 2:40pm. I knew they had previously carried stock, but I didn’t want to wait outside because the weather was unpredictable and it wasn’t certain they would have any. I decided to go home sheetless.

But, after a quick swing by the butchers shop to buy a pork chop and some traditional Belgian stoemp (mashed potatoes with veggies), I saw the tobacconist* across the road. They sold all sorts of bric-a-brac other than tobacco. I decided to give it a shot.

Standing in front of the woman behind the counter, I was awestruck. Her rack was enormous! There were rows upon row of packs of cigarettes lined up waiting to be bought. At a quick guesstimate, I would say there were about 10 rows high, by 15 packs wide and 10 packs deep, with an average of 20 cigarettes per pack. That’s 30,000 cigarettes for sale right there, right now, in a little tobacco shop at the corner of my street. That’s before the deliveryman comes to replenish the stock. Needless to say, they didn’t sell reams of paper and so I walked home.

The sight of all those cigarettes intrigued and repulsed me somewhat. On the one hand, it provided me with a glimpse of nostalgia, remembering how I used to voluntarily and excitedly fork out some of my hard-earned cash just to send a portion of it literally up in smoke. On the other hand, it reminded me of just how blind I had been about the addiction, the lies I had told myself and others, and my ignorance about the health dangers of smoking.


* Newsagent = A place to buy newspapers, cigarettes, and other consumable paraphernalia such as sweets (candy in the US).

* Tobacconist = A place to buy tobacco, newspapers, and other consumable paraphernalia such as sweets (candy in the US).

– My partner swears that I was born from a different era, one in which they said apothecary instead of pharmacy. Bah, humbug!

– All puns are intended.

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